Despite swirling misgivings that currently strewn the turf of Ogun, Governor Dapo Abiodun has not forgotten his promises to the female demography, writes Idowu Sowunmi
The exciting news of women’s representation in art of governance in recent times cannot be over-emphasised. Most African countries especially, Nigeria had taken conscious efforts towards engendering women’s participation in decision-making processes.
Between 1999 and now, so much gains had been recorded with an increasing number of women involving in varieties of institutional decision-making processes in Nigeria. In fact, the country appears to be leading in a sense.
Apart from the fact that the Nigerian government has provided enabling environment for women’s organisations to develop their activities in areas related to their concerns, women’s movements and groups have also had the opportunities to represent the womenfolk in government’s establishments and the corporate world.
The movements had literarily gone from the prism of female activism to deliberate political involvement towards women’s emancipation.
Attention-grabbing names like Mrs. Amina Jane Mohammed, current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Mrs. Aruma Oteh, Treasurer and a Vice President of the World Bank; Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance; Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education; among others, remain some influential household names that have been thrown up in Nigeria’s socio-political space since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999.
They had worked so hard to change the age-long narratives that women could only be seen but not heard. They had also demonstrated in their chosen careers that the womenfolk had what it took to contribute meaningfully towards nation building.
Most states of the federation had also taken it upon themselves to identify and encourage women in substantive decision-making processes. This has really given womenfolk some sense of belonging across the lengths and breadths of the country.
That’s the spirit that greeted the list of commissioner-nominees recently screened and confirmed by Ogun State House of Assembly.
While the list was applauded by many politicians as a true representation of the people of Ogun State, a Coalition of Women Groups in the state, however, took to streets on December 16 to protest what was allegedly tagged marginalisation of womenfolk and demanded more women’s inclusion in the governance of the state.
The protesters took their case to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, who was more than ready to receive them and set the record straight.
For more than one hour at the Governor’s Office in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Abiodun told the coalition led by Dr. Biola Akiode-Afolabi of his administration’s commitment to fair representation of the womenfolk in his emerging cabinet. He reaffirmed the importance of women in the art of governance.
He said part of the commissioners’ list released by the state government came from the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose nominees from the grassroots could therefore not be altered.
The governor recalled how he insisted that his Deputy must be a female in the run-up to the March 9 governorship election, pointing out that the choice of a female running mate, Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, was to drive women-focused programmes in the state.
The governor explained that he had since, in addition, appointed women to serve as his Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants in various capacities.
Besides, the governor noted his administration’s recent appointment of Mrs. Amope Chokor as Ogun State Head of Service, describing the decision as a practical demonstration of his firm belief in and recognition of the brilliance, intelligence and commitment of women to the development of the state.
Abiodun assured that women remained strategic to the achievement of his administration’s objectives in the state, adding that plans were afoot to put women in more strategic positions in the state.
He said the agitations for more women in his cabinet was in line with his own personal desires, promising that more women would be appointed as Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, as well as Heads of Boards and key agencies in the state.
“No nation or state that wants to enjoy rapid socio-economic development can toy with the very pivotal role of women in governance.
“The point cannot be disputed that women are nation-builders whose loyalty is unparalleled. The appointments just announced are just a tip of the iceberg. In the subsequent announcements that will be made, women’s interests would be more than adequately protected.
“In doing this, we are affirming our belief that the Ogun State of our dreams is not attainable without the critical inputs of women,” Abiodun declared.
It is on record that Ogun State is the only state in Southwest region with a female deputy governor. The state, indeed, enjoys such enviable status with other four states of the federation with female deputy governors under this current dispensation.
Other states with female Deputy Governors in Nigeria include: Kaduna State (Mrs. Hadiza Balarabe); Rivers State (Mrs. Harry-Banigo Ipalibo) and Enugu State (Mrs. Lolo Cecelia Ezeilo).
Ogun State also maintains an enviable position as the only state in the Southwest region with a female Head of Service in person of Mrs. Chokor.
To Abiodun, his female appointees are qualified people, who could hold any position of responsibility anywhere in the world.
“They are not appointed simply, because they are women. But because they have got the intellectual capacities and capabilities to perform creditably well. More names of female technocrats will soon be made public on merit towards building our future together,” the governor said.